The Journey of Spiritual Formation
It is interesting how many dynamics affect the course of our spiritual formation. The journey of this life, and the Christian’s walk with God and Christ, is filled with difficulties and struggles as we seek to draw closer to our Creator. Alister McGrath, in his book Christian Spirituality, defines Christian spirituality as, “…the quest for a fulfilled and authentic Christian existence, involving the bringing together of the fundamental ideas of Christianity and the whole experience of living on the basis of and within the scope of the Christian faith.” The very idea of seeking to be a follower of Christ and walking in His steps involves our clear understanding of what spirituality entails and how we can seek to improve our relationship with God through a deepening of our life in Christ. It is within this scope that we reflect on our own journey of spiritual formation. Mel Lawrenz, in his book The Dynamics of Spiritual Formation, says that “Spiritual formation is the progressive patterning of a person’s inner and outer life according to the image of Christ through intentional means of spiritual growth.”
We must understand that the experience of spiritual formation is a process that, at times appears to be quite deformed in nature. We hear people sometimes refer to the spiritual journey in an illustrative manner, calling the journey a roller-coaster ride. There is no doubt that one’s quest toward a deeper spirituality will be filled with ups and downs. In light of this fact, we must not lose heart as we seek to grow closer to God and our fellow Christians.
My journey has been filled with highs and lows. I have stood tall on the highest peaks and crawled in the deepest valleys. It seems that as I reflect on where I have been and where I am going I can see patterns in my life that have attributed to each situation in which I have found myself. Spiritual formation involves engaging the spiritual disciplines. From prayer and solitude, to worship and serving, our spiritual journey should and must include all the spiritual disciplines. As we seek to develop a more meaningful existence as a Christian, our strength and efforts ought to be in bettering ourselves in the experiences of the everyday spirituality. It is far too easy to profess to be a disciple of Christ without even coming to know Him. It is amazing to me the amount of people, mature, older people in the church who have been “followers” of Christ for many years without their lives seeming to be changed in any way. They still get angry as easy. They are still mean to others. They continue to seek their own desires. In spite of all these things, they claim to be disciples of Christ. Christ does not seem to have brought any change in them. The implication of the spiritual formation in our lives entails a changing of oneself toward a deeper relationship with God. As we grow toward a closer walk with God, and if we are truly seeking to follow His will, He is working to shape us and mold us into the image of His Son. The apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:29, that we have been predestined to be conformed into His image. We must realize that God is at work in the lives of those who follow Him. As we face difficulties and struggles in our spiritual journey, He is there shaping us and molding us into what and who He wants us to be.
However, we must continue to seek Him and draw close to Him, knowing that God gives us the right, ability, and choice to walk away from Him. We see this illustrated in the life of the rich, young ruler from Mark 10:17-22. He asks Jesus what it will take for him to inherit eternal life. Jesus responds by telling the ruler to follow His commandments. The young man says that he has done that since his youth. Jesus then tells him that he still must do one thing. He must sell all that he has and give it to the poor and follow Jesus. And the rich, young ruler goes away sorrowful. And Jesus lets him walk away. God will let us walk away from Him if we so choose. We must challenge ourselves, as we face the journey of spiritual formation, to continue following in the footsteps of Christ.